Foxman Attacks Out Of Ignorance

A broad spectrum of Americans oppose the application of sharia law in American courts, and seek to ensure that American Muslim families have the same constitutional protections and liberties as other Americans. Opposing this rapidly growing social consensus, Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, recently published an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Telegraph entitled "Shout Down the Sharia Myth Makers."  In the piece Foxman exhibited indifference to American Muslim families who have been denied equal protection and due process by American courts applying sharia law.

Foxman decries a "false perception among a growing number of Americans that Sharia is a very real threat to our way of life and constitutional freedoms." However, far from being "myth makers," Americans who support legislation designed to protect American litigants from the application of sharia law have recognized that for decades, through a misguided use of comity (a deference to foreign legal judgments), American courts have applied sharia law, thereby denying Muslim litigants their constitutional rights. By insisting that the enforcement of foreign judgments premised on sharia regarding disputes involving Muslim families in America are "phantom threats that don't really exist," Foxman is denying the victims of foreign judgments American justice. These litigants, nearly all oppressed women, often came to America to escape the harsh and discriminatory doctrines of Islamic law, only to have those doctrines enforced in our state courts. A recent report entitled "Shariah Law and American State Courts," addresses 50 cases ( involving sharia law in American courts.

This jurisprudence refutes Foxman's claim of a "complete absence of evidence of the unconstitutional application of foreign or religious law in our judicial system," upon which he premises his attacks on Americans promoting legislation to protect the rights of Muslim families in America. Further, these cases enforcing sharia do not involve the exercise of religion, but issues of secular law commonly adjudicated in American courts, such as sexual assault, divorce, spousal support and child custody. Sharia rules governing issues of family law are regularly enforced by the authority of the state as a legal code in numerous Muslim majority countries, as well as countries like Israel, India and the Philippines which empower sharia courts. Judgments from these courts have repeatedly reached American shores to be imposed upon Muslim families in our state courts.

Foxman not only ignores the dozens of published legal cases involving the application of sharia law in American courts, but he also misinforms his readers regarding easily verifiable facts, such as the names, dates and text of the protective legislation he rails against. Rather than acknowledging the relevant jurisprudence, and accurately describing the curative legislation, he impugns his many fellow Americans, including the civil liberties group American Public Policy Alliance (, who seek to ensure constitutional equal protection, due process and civil liberties for all Americans, especially those American Muslims who are denied their rights through courts imposing foreign laws contrary to American constitutional norms.

Rather than trying to "shout down" those who seek to protect Muslim women and children from the application of sharia in American courts, alleging they act out of ignorance, Foxman should instead educate himself by reading the disturbing stories of the victims of sharia in American courts, as told by American judges in their court opinions.

Stephen M. Gelé, American Public Policy Alliance (